Concerns expressed about proposed Starbucks on Harlem, while proposed liquor store in Edgebrook met with overall praise
by BRIAN NADIG
A proposal for a Starbucks Coffee near Harlem and Bryn Mawr avenues, just to the north of the Kennedy Expressway, received mixed reviews from members of the 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee at its Oct. 7 virtual meeting, while a proposed high-end liquor store in Edgebrook was met with praise by several members.
Capri Development is proposing to rezone a 28,425-square-foot vacant parcel at 5600 N. Harlem Ave. from RS-2, which is intended primarily for single-family homes, to B3-1 for a Starbucks with a drive-through facility. Tentative hours would be from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., according to project officials.
Access to the site would be from both Bryn Mawr and Harlem, with right-turn-only ingress and egress from Harlem, and there would be no access to the site from West Olive Avenue, which runs along the north end of the parcel, according to a site plan for the proposal.
Twenty-two parking spaces are planned, and there would room for 13 cars to wait in the drive-through lane. In addition, permeable pavers for the parking lot are planned, and there would be an outdoor patio and a walk-up window.
“We anticipate getting most of our cars off Harlem … minor traffic on Bryn Mawr,” project attorney Paul Kolpak said. “We think it’s an appropriate use since it’s on Harlem Avenue.” Bryn Mawr runs westbound only.
Committee member Tony Chiavola expressed traffic concerns about the proposal, adding that a nearby Starbucks at Harlem and Northwest Highway creates traffic congestion at that intersection.
“What the heck do we need anther coffee shop in the neighborhood,” member John Kwasinski said. “I don’t see any reason it needs to be” rezoned for commercial use.
Kwasinski said that commercial use on Harlem is more appropriate south of the Kennedy, while residential use should remain north of the expressway. He added that the DeMichele family which has owned the land and several nearby parcels for decades went to court about 20 years ago to get a zoning change and lost.
About 15 years ago a proposal for a Fifth Third Bank with a drive-through for the parcel was met with strong community opposition, and the project never materialized.
Kolpak questioned whether the site would be appropriate for “quality” single homes given its proximity to a busy thoroughfare.
Member Frank Icuss said that Starbucks’ proposal should “fail or pass on its own merits” and that the lawsuit “is in the history books.” Icuss expressed concern that early morning noise from the speaker for the drive-through could be disruptive to nearby residents.
Member David DiSanti said that he has “no serious objections” as long as traffic concerns are addressed, and member Marc Pelini said that the parcel may not be conducive to residential use given its location next to an expressway and a busy street. “I don’t see someone wanting to live on that corner,” Pelini said, adding that residential already would have been built there if it were desirable.
The proposal generated at least 87 questions and comments from residents and others listening to the virtual meeting. Some recommended affordable housing for the site, and others expressed traffic and noise concerns, with some suggesting a park there.
Alderman Anthony Napolitano’s chief of staff Chris Vittorio said that some developers have expressed interest in mixed-use development for the area, with commercial on the ground floor and residential units on the upper floors, but there has been no known interest from developers for single-family homes on the site.
In a separate proposal, a nearby vacant lot at 5611-37 N. Harlem Ave. would be rezoned from RS-1 to C1-1 to allow for an Eco Brite car wash, with driveway entrances on Harlem and Bryn Mawr. It would feature a 180-foot-long car wash tunnel, and hours would be 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., with about 300 customers a day, according to project officials.
Pelini said that he is worried about precedent-setting nature of the car wash proposal, asking project officials if the project could be a “death sentence” for the existing residential properties to the north along the east side of Harlem.
A project official said that it would be difficult to predict how the properties to the north would “move in the future.”
The car wash development site is located in a Norwood Park Special Conservation District, which imposes additional zoning regulations to help preserve the area’s single-family home atmosphere. The parcel also is located in the Norwood Park Historical District. Neither district runs along the west site of Harlem, where the Starbucks is proposed.
Napolitano said earlier in the week that the conservation and historical designations would not necessarily prevent a car wash from opening there as long as the site is rezoned to C1-1. He added that his role as alderman is to bring development proposals to the community but that ultimately input from the impacted neighborhood helps determine which ones get approved.
The alderman said last year that a group of residents met to discuss the parcels and concluded that low-rise retail or medical developments on those properties may be preferred over a possible dense residential development. He said that the residents met in response to the posting of for sale signs on the properties.
In the past Napolitano has expressed concern about aldermen losing their control over local zoning matters. Mayor LoriLight has been critical of aldermanic privilege and implemented measures in which the signature of the alderman in the affected ward is no longer required on some city documents.
Also on the agenda was a proposal for a Bottles and Cans liquor store at 6401 N. Central Ave. in Edgebrook. It would be owned by Sauganash residents Joe and Carly Katz, who also operate Bottles and Cans at 4109 N. Lincoln Ave. “We have the shared vested interest (in the community) you all have,”Carly Katz said. “We are here for the long haul. We are ready for a 20-year lease.”
“We try to focus on the higher end of things,” Joe Katz said, adding that the store’s selection of beers, wines and spirits is carefully selected by Carly. He added that they envision their proposed Edgebrook store as “helping to cultivate new businesses coming in” the area.
“We think we can be an anchor business for what needs to happen in that business district,” Carly Katz said. “We have been looking for a storefront for over 2 years. We are brand specific.”
Joe Katz said that the location is idea because it is on a corner and has a parking lot. The hours would be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.
The store would be located in a vacant storefront in the Edgebrook Plaza, and the project requires the site to be rezoned from B1-1 to C1-1. There are no plans to sell tobacco products and lottery tickets, Joe Katz said.
Member Jim Hankin expressed concern that the C1-1 zoning would allow for intensive commercial uses and recommended that the site instead be rezoned to B3-1, with a special use permit for a liquor store. He added that the C1 zoning could set a precedent, with adjacent and nearby owners seeking the same zoning.
Joe Katz said that the special use process would further delay the project several months and be costly given that they would be paying rent. The City Council approves zoning changes, while the Zoning Board of Appeals, which is independent of the council, approves special uses. The zoning change would have to be in place before the zoning board would hear the special use request.
B3 zoning is intended for “community shopping districts” while C1 is intended for “neighborhood commercial districts,” allowing for several uses that are not permitted by right in B3. They include body art services, auto-related businesses, storage yards and a kennel.
Some members responded that there are several ways to address any C1 concerns, including the creation of a restrictive covenant which would limit the type of businesses on the site.
“It overall seems like a good idea,” Kwasinski said of the proposed store.
Chiavola said that he feels the store would “drive” other businesses to the area.
Member Liz DeChant thanked the Katz for wanting to expanding their business during the challenging times of a pandemic.
“I think you’d be a great fit to the community,” Napolitano said. Everyday Edgebrook and the Edgebrook-Sauganash Chamber of Commerce have issued letters in support of the project.
Vittorio said that an online survey for each proposal will be conducted in order to gather more feedback from the community.
Decisions by the advisory committee serve as a recommendation to Napolitano.
Editor’s note: At the time of this article’s posting, discussions on the proposed car wash were not over. The meeting was expected to last at least three hours.